The Power of Not Knowing: Liz Wiseman

Liz Wiseman (@LizWiseman) spoke with pending graduates of Stanford at the DFJ Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series (@ECorner). I wish there had been more time for Q&A at the end (but, really, we always want more time). But once you meet nine year old Zia, the talk takes off.

  • Just have fewer diminishing moments and string together a lot more multiplier moments.
  • When your people are struggling, it’s irresponsible not to help. But you have to remember to hand the pen back.
  • The best leaders not only give people a pat on the back, they give them a push into operating in the unknown.
  • As we move into a leadership role, nothing is more important than being able to ask the right questions.
  • Maintain your rookie smarts.

PS: Her blog post on Rookies for Harvard Business Review (@HarvardBiz) can be found here.

PPS: I got an overwhelming reminder of the role of Search (as opposed to the role of Execute) in customer development and business model generation — expertly explained by Steve Blank (@sgblank).


The Tribes We Lead: Seth Godin

“Try to find a piece of the status quo — something that bothers you, something that needs to be improved, something that is itching to be changed — and change it.”

Ah, TED Talks (@TEDTalks). I love watching these insightful and thoughtful talks.  Seth Godin (@ThisIsSethsBlog) spoke at TED about implementing change in your world — that part of your life that you care most deeply about — and connecting with others who are just waiting for you to lead them.

  • Try to make big, permanent, important change.
  • We are living through, and are right at the key moment of, a change in the way ideas are created and spread and implemented.
  • The way we make change today is not by using money or power to lever a system, but by leading.
  • Tribes can change our world by aligning large numbers of people that want to connect.
  • What we do for a living now, all of us, I think, is find something worth changing, and then assemble tribes that spread the idea.
  • The Beatles did not invent teenagers. They merely decided to lead them.
  • Your mission (should you choose to accept it): upset, connect and lead.
  • You don’t need permission from people to lead them. But in case you do, here it is: they’re waiting, we’re waiting, for you to show us where to go next.

PS: When you have a chance, Google “Stop Stealing Dreams” (or watch this and read that).


Leadership is a Choice: General Stanley McChrystal

“It takes inspirational leaders who are willing to stand up and take that role – who realize that leaders actually lead.”

General (Ret.) Stanley McChrystal (@StanMcChrystal) talks leadership, culture change and team at Stanford Graduate School of Business (@StanfordBiz). Take 30 minutes for the entire talk here.

  • Being satisfied with the status quo can lead to being unprepared for the constant change in the world.
  • The organization can choose to learn and adapt, or it can choose to be disrupted.
  • Convince people that what you want them to do is something they want to do, and that it is in their best interest.
  • It’s about winning.
  • There is a limit to physics. You can get better and better and better, but at a certain point you can’t get that much better. Some other way must be found.
  • There is only one of you. Realize that you are human, and that the people around you are human. Take care of them just like you take care of yourself.
  • Shared Consciousness and Purpose: A level of transparency and inclusiveness where the organization shares informed perspectives AND a sense of common ownership and responsibility for a clearly understood mission.
  • You must ensure that everyone understands not just where you are going, but how you are getting there.
  • In your organization, if you don’t share information, if you don’t make people feel a part of it, will they celebrate the big win?
  • Ultimately, it’s about trust.
  • (27:10) Get your interactions right.
  • People watch everything you do. You are leading by example every moment of every day.
  • [Show them that] you are willing to be there when it’s late / dangerous / cold / undesirable.

Culture Trumps Strategy: Mindy Grossman, CEO of HSN

Earlier this year, Mindy Grossman (@MindyGrossman) gave an excellent interview as part of the View from the Top Speaker Series at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (@StanfordBiz).

I’ve captured some of the highlights from this direct, no-nonsense 48 minute talk entitled Culture Trumps Strategy … but you can watch it for yourself here.

  • In order to build a long term sustainable and successful company, you need an incredibly engaged culture.
  • Nobody was telling our story.
  • When you have 8 CEOs in 10 years, the culture freezes. No strategy is implemented. People were feeling downtrodden, asking what were their opportunities for success?
  • I knew the first story I had to tell was “Why was I there? Why was I passionate about the future of this company?”, and I had to make it personal.
  • Igniting the culture and being believable, and then setting a vision, is what changed the entire business dynamic.
  • When your employee is asked by a neighbour, “Who do you work for?”, you want your employee to be your greatest evangelist.
  • I believe that you have to get rid of toxicity in any company. I don’t care how smart or how talented the person is, or how long the person has been there.
  • You have to set bold goals, but then you have to give your people a path to get there. You can’t just put them out there with out the strategy.
  • You (want to) inspire people to have a mission.
  • We want to be a company of firsts.
  • If you don’t disrupt yourself, you will be disrupted by somebody else.
  • What is she feeling? (referring to the customer)
  • We’re just going to make her feel great, if she wants to buy a mascara … and we’re really going to respect her, if she can’t buy anything.
  • Trust and respect.
  • Create an experience for our customer.
  • You will be a lot more successful, and the company will be a lot more successful, and you will be a lot less frustrated, if you stop trying to make ordinary people extraordinary … and surround yourself with extraordinary people.
  • Ask the “soul” questions. I want to hear the “Why”.
  • Who are you and what are your values …and are they aligned with the values of our company?
  • What’s our culture?
  • Don’t look only at what’s in front of you today … instead, focus on conceptualizing a new vision and leap into it.
  • What do I want to be a part of? What do I see as growing?
  • Never be in a position to feel trapped.
  • Know yourself.